Friday, May 13, 2011

French Bread

I recently perfected this recipe and I can say now that I'm proudly making french bread that I always wanted, light on the inside and very crunchy on the outside. I have been baking french breads for few years and just recently, developed this recipe that made a huge improvement to my breads. The trick was to ferment a yeast starter for several hours (12h), then use that to build the final bread dough. This method of using yeast starter is not new, but I only used that for my panettone breads.
Making this french bread will take time. I recommend to leave the starter fermenting overnight, then resume the recipe on the next morning.

So straight to the ingredients for the starter:
-2 cups of all purpose flour
-1 cup luke warm water
-2 tea spoons dry yeast
Combine the flour and yeast.

Add water and mix to get a soft dough.

Cover with plastic film, poke few holes.
Cover that with a wet paper towel and let ferment for 12h at 80F, or ambient temperature, around 70F should be fine also.
This is after 12h.
Now to the main dough ingredients:
-yeast starter
-2 cups flour
-1 cup warm water
-2 table spoons gluten
-1 tea spoon dry yeast
-1 tea spoon of dough conditioner (optional)
-1 tea spoon non-iodized salt
-2 table spoons sugar
First, mix the dry ingredients, then add the starter and water.
I use a kitchen-aid mixer and mix the dough for 7 minutes, adding flour as needed
to keep it from sticking to the bowl. If kneading by hand, longer time may be needed to produce same results, possibly 15min or so.
Place the dough on a big bowl previously oiled, cover with a plastic film with few holes and let it raise for 1h at 80F.
Here's the dough after 1h, raised to more than double in size.
Dump the dough on a floured surface, sprinkle some more flour on top and slowly press the dough to compact.

The idea is to compress the bubbles in the dough to small sizes, not remove the bubbles. Further fermentation will add more bubbles and make a light bread.
Here's the dough, compacted to about 1/2in thick.
Form a ball and move to same bowl and let it raise for another hour at 80F.
Again, after 1h, doubled in size.
Set the dough on the table and decide on the size of you bread, divide the dough and form the shapes that you like.

I like my breads around 10in long and 3in round, after baked, so I form the bread dough into 12in long by 1.5in diameter, as seen below.
Shape loaves and lay on a baking sheet, previously oiled.
With a sharp knife of blade, cut the breads about 1/4in deep.
Spray the breads with warm water. I like topping my breads with sesame seeds, so I sprinkle that on to the wet breads.
Let it raise for 1h. This is how it would look like, ready for the oven.
Sprays the breads with warm water again, pre-heat oven to 390F and bake for 30min, if you plan to eat the bread on same day.
If you want to pre-bake the breads to freeze then for later use, bake for only 15min.
Here are 3 loaves baked for 15min.

Let it cool completely, wrap in film, then into a ziplock bag and into the freezer.
When you are ready to eat then, pre-heat oven to 390F and finish baking for 15min. Place the breads still frozen in the oven.

Here are the loaves that were baked for full 30min.
Notice the pre-baked loaves on the left (15min) and the fully baked on the right (30min).

Loaf ended with 9in long.
Let it cool and enjoy with lots of butter and a hot cup of coffee!


  1. Lilian Deluiz de OliveiraMay 30, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Ihave had a pleasure try this french bread! It is really delicious and it taste like a bread that you buy at the bakery. I would better say much better. It is soft and crunch. Really tasty!!! Good job Nilo!!! Way to go!!!!

  2. Thank you for sharing your recipe. Like the pre-bake instructions. Great I can bake in mass and feeze.